The Needle’s Currency

I’ve been meaning to do a post on embroidery for a while. Needlecraft hardly seems new, or current, but I have students knitting in class, I follow a great twitter account (#womensart & also a great blog) which features amazing textile artists regularly, and the instagram hashtags #slowstitching  and #needlepainting yield an abundance of extraordinary examples of embroidery art nearly every day. I think we’re in the midst of another “golden age” of embroidery—although I also think I’m late to this party, as usual (as this 2016 My Modern Met post will confirm). Certainly embroidery is not as central a part of society, or women’s lives, as it was during the early modern era when the Water Poet John Taylor published The Needles Excellency or the Federal era when Salem girls crafted samplers at Sarah Stivour’s famous school, but it is clearly a popular practice and a vibrant art form which often mixes traditional artistry with contemporary themes, in creations that are quite literally bursting out of the hoop.

Needles Excellency

ana-teresa-barboza-embroidered-landscapes-freeyork-1 (2)


Screenshot_20200310-102651_ChromeEmbroidery by the book and bursting outside of the book—and the frame— by Peruvian artist Ana Teresa Barboza.




Embroidery Art (2)


ABOVE: More traditional pieces from Chloe Giordano: a pine marten and a fox. The Swedish textile artist Britta MargaretaLabba explores Sámi culture–and wildlife–in her creations; Moscow artist Roza Andreeva’s pieces are a bit more domesticated but no less intricate, and Lithuanian embroiderer Aušra Merkelytė (@velvetmeadow) works with the hoop…and tulle, and dandelions, and Queen Anne’s Lace.

BELOW: Two popular Japanese embroidery artists: Yumiko Higuchi and Hiroko Kubota, whose embroidered cat shirts are wildly popular.

Embroidery Tulips (2)

Emboidery Bag (2)


BELOW: just two of Paulina Bartnik’s embroidered birds at she has also created a beautiful world on Instagram (@paulina.bart). And let’s go up in the air for the “aerial embroidery” of British artist Victoria Richards, depicting her Devon countryside in thread (I could teach the history of enclosure with these works!)






And finally, a few pieces by the popular and prolific New York artist Richard Saja, who takes his inspiration from traditional toile and then embellishes through embroidery to create completely new scenes: check out his blog Historically Inaccurate for much, much more. Always current: Love is Blind and George Washington.



8 responses to “The Needle’s Currency

  • Nancy

    Thank you for this article on such exquisite and unique embroidery! I am an embroiderer (also knitter, spinner, appliquér, well, you get the idea. I am particular fond of embroidering houses, especially First Period houses! I’ll email you some pics of several pieces I’ve stitched of these beautiful antique structures…

  • Jenni

    Thanks. Awesome needlework post!!

  • Carol (Phelps) Perry

    These are wonderful. I covet the embroidered cat shirts. I used to embroider quite a bit when I was young. (Especially while pregnant, for some reason!) Thank you for sharing these. Often at garage sales or thrift stores I find a vintage lovingly embroidered bureau scarf or tablecloth and buy it just because it deserves to be appreciated for the love in every stitch!

  • Donnalee of Kingston NY

    This is great. It reminds me of a fantasy novel I read where in the end the heroine from this world goes to live in a ye-olde sort of world, and takes all her fine sewing needles and floss and thread with her and expects that it will make her the most wealthy and popular person around, and she’s right. It’s a very significant technology that we take for granted now.

  • Nancy

    Done and done! 🙂

  • LisaLisa

    Thank you for another awe inspiring post. Richard Saja’s pieces are exquisite! I shared this post with my embroidery guild and they found it most interesting. Your blog is always so thought provoking.
    Separately, somehow through either one of your posts or links therein, I’ve discovered Charles Wendell Townsend, Charles Batchelder, and the whole Nuttall crowd with stories about Ipswich, Plum Island, etc. Great winter reading.

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